A promotional video designed to attract visitors to area waterways has bolstered area outdoor businesses.
“We had no idea how great it was going to be. It’s gone viral. I think people believe they are talking to Redford and Benny on social media,” said Shelly Blackburn, executive director of the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau about the Serene18 Paddle Trail passport program and its spokespeople Redford and Benny.
Actually, Redford, dressed in a khaki and drab guide uniform and a neckerchief, is the only one who speaks in the two-minute promotional video with Benny as the faithful sidekick. With his thick drawl, Redford highlights Wildwood Park at Clarks Hill Lake, Stallings Island, Betty’s Branch and the Augusta Canal.
The Serene18 Paddle Trail refers to 18 square miles of water trails at the lake, canal and Savannah River. The CVB offers a passport with four routes taking in those spots Redford highlights. People who canoe or kayak the routes can get their passports stamped once they’ve paddled them. When they complete the passport, they receive a free t-shirt.
People can get passports stamped at Keg Creek Water Sports at Wildwood Park, Cole Watkins Kayak Tours, Outdoor Augusta at Riverside Park, Savannah Rapids Kayak Rental and the Columbia County Visitors Center. T-shirts are available at the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau office, 3300 Evans To Locks Rd.
Released in June 2020, the concept and subsequent video was a couple of years in the making.
Blackburn said they wanted to find a way to package multiple outdoor activities into one easy program. The ’18’ portion of the name represents the 18 square miles, and the word “serene” came from focus groups. Kruhu asked the CVB to take a chance on its idea for the video. Originally scheduled to come out in February 2020, it was delayed because of COVID-19. The delay was perfect, she said.
Business for outdoor recreation “doubled or tripled” in some cases last year over previous ones with locals, as well as out-of-town visitors coming to the area to paddle the Serene18 Paddle Trail, Blackburn said.
“Our biggest audience out of the area has been Atlanta,” she said.
People have earned the passport and indicated they wanted to do it again, asking for more routes. And they won’t be disappointed.
“It will come out in July. It’s Below Dam,” she said.
The Below Dam park sits below the Strom Thurmond Dam.
Redford and Benny are scheduled to return for another video. Blackburn said it’s possible the duo could be part of future water-related events, but that’s still pending.
To learn more about the Serene18 Trail, visit visitcolumbiacountyga.com/serene18-paddle-trail.